Getting Things Done, David Allen

Getting Things Done, by David Allen

Getting Things Done, David Allen

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What I Like About the Book

It is possible to be effectively doing while you are delightfully being, in your ordinary workday world. ”

David Allen, Getting Things Done

Stress. Anxiety. Rush. Busyness. Overwhelm.

Do you experience any of those sensations in your life? I know I do.

Getting Things Done by David Allen gives you practical ideas to reduce stress, become more relaxed, and get more done as a result. David is like your zen-master of productivity, and he is all about getting better at the practical, everyday details of your life.

The modern, globalized world is basically a knowledge economy.  Your economic value as an individual has little to do with your physical strength. Instead, your ability to earn income is determined by your ability to think, to absorb and process information, and to act despite an overwhelming load of stimuli every day.

David Allen’s Getting Things Done system is basically a framework to become a valuable, effective, knowledge economy ninja. Instead of scaling walls and wielding swords, you slice through enormous email inboxes and jump over time-sucking obstacles with a relaxed smile.  Yeah, it’s that cool (especially for personal productivity nerds like me)!

I view David Allen’s system as a way to organize your life. It’s like a pair of special glasses you wear to help you process, organize, and often eliminate the projects and events in your life.  Just having a proven, effective system gives you peace of mind and confidence so that you can do what matters each day – whether that means a work project, exercise, or relaxing with your family.

Cautionary Advice About the Book

As much as I like it, The Getting Things Done system (and really any personal organization system) can also be overwhelming.  It’s a big meal to digest all at one time.  So, I hope you’ll look for 1-2 ideas below that you can implement quickly. Get them working in your life, enjoy the results, and if you’re satisfied, come back to the book for more.

I’ve been working for 12 years to incorporate these ideas into my own life. As you’ll see in the big ideas and articles below, I’ve adapted and sometimes changed them to work for myself. So, feel free to do the same for yourself. After all, it’s your life!

In the end, the most important result is that you improve your ability to be relaxed and productive. However you accomplish this, you can then move towards a life that matters to you.

Enjoy the ideas and quotes below! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section at the end.

My Favorite Big Ideas From the Book

**Follow the links to read past articles I have written on each big idea.

1. How to Dramatically Boost Your Productivity Using the 2-Minute Rule

This simple idea can dramatically impact your life if you implement it. The rule tells you when to do something right now and when to put it off until later. I apply this rule to my to-do lists, email inbox, and other projects every day, and I love the results!

2. The Collection Habit: How to Get Everything Off Your Mind

David Allen describes a state of mind called “mind like water.”  It’s when your mind is fluid, creative, and at its best. How do you get to this state of mind? You start by learning and implementing the collection habit.  It is a system to capture everything that comes into your life – whether it’s an email, a phone call, or a receipt.

3. Practical First, Big Picture Second – Why Goals Aren’t Enough

I love goal setting. A clear, compelling big-picture vision and goals are like the GPS system on our personal and business journeys. But David Allen makes the persuasive argument that before you can set and achieve big goals, you have to learn how to effectively do the mundane, practical tasks TODAY. 

4. The List of 10: My Weekly System For Getting Priorities Done

David Allen highly recommends a weekly planning period to quietly envision and plan out your week before it starts. I began this habit years ago, and I spend between 5-20 minutes each weekend planning the next week.  The result of my personal planning is something called my List of 10. This system helps me to get my priorities done each week.

5. Time Management is Dead – Do This Instead

Personal productivity (aka getting things done) is usually described as time management. David Allen says lack of time is not the issue most of us face. Instead, we have a lack of clarity about the next actions needed to move our projects forward. This is a summary of David’s system of action management.

6. 5 To-Do Lists That Keep Me Sane

A bulk of Getting Things Done is about David Allen’s system of lists and procedures.  I summarized his system into 5 to-do lists that keep me sane. They include (1) Project List (2) Someday-Maybe List (3) Calendar (4) Next Action List (5) Waiting For List.


My Favorite Quotes From the Book

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”

Shanryu Suzuki

In knowledge work … the task is not given; it has to be determined. ‘What are the expected results from this work?’ is … the key question in making knowledge workers productive. And it is a question that demands risky decisions. There is usually no right answer; there are choices instead.”

Peter Drucker

Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must also step up the stairs.”

Vaclav Havel

Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are the most active.”

Leonardo da Vinci

The challenge is to marry high-level idealistic focus to the mundane activity of life. In the end, they require the same thinking.”

David Allen

If you’re not totally clear about the purpose of what you’re doing, you have no chance of winning. Purpose defines success.”

David Allen

Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.”

Dee Hock

Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work … while others party.”

David Kekich

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

The Buddha

The sense of anxiety and guilt doesn’t come from having too much to do; it’s the automatic result of breaking agreements with yourself.”

David Allen

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

Talk does not cook rice.”

Chinese Proverb

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

George Bernard Shaw

A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world.”

From a church in Sussex, England ca. 1730

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What do you think?

Have you read Getting Things Done? Did you like it? What were your favorite ideas? What systems and tools do you use to get more done with less stress in your life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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